HAMILTON, Bermuda (AP) — Wind and rain began battering Bermuda Wednesday evening as the British territory braced itself for Hurricane Nicole, which could become a major Category 3 storm before it hits the island in the northern Atlantic Ocean.
Schools and government offices closed as shops and gas stations reported brisk business ahead of the storm, with people buying batteries, matches, alcohol and ready-cooked meals.
“Whatever happens, people are not going to go hungry,” resident Byron Trott said as he pushed a bulging shopping cart toward the checkout counter.
Bars in the capital of Hamilton remained busy, but most planned to close by late Wednesday night. Meanwhile, hotels reported an uptick in bookings as people sought shelters with power.
While Bermuda has sturdy infrastructure and is accustomed to storms, government officials urged people to prepare for the hurricane and remain indoors on Wednesday and Thursday, when the storm is expected to hit.
“We have a long night in front of us,” Premier Michael Dunkley said. “We better be prepared for the onslaught of hurricane force winds, but if we heed the warnings, we will be in a strong position once the storm blows through.”
The U.S. National Hurricane Center in Miami said Nicole was located about 240 miles (385 kilometers) south-southwest of Bermuda on Wednesday evening. It had maximum sustained winds of 110 mph (175 kph) and was moving north at 10 mph (17 kph).
Businesses were largely boarded up by Wednesday night, and dozens of vessels from one marina were already neatly packed away between historical buildings in Mangrove Bay, a popular spot for water activities in Bermuda’s northwest tip.
American Airlines and Air Canada are among several that have canceled flights to the island, and several cruise ships have canceled trips as well.
The hurricane is kicking up heavy surf in islands south of Bermuda including Puerto Rico, where authorities said they were looking for the body of a surfer who disappeared on Tuesday. He was identified as 37-year-old Gabriel Pantoja.